Being a “Happiness Coach”: my vow of poverty

Over the weekend I accompanied a friend to a funeral. The crying and lamenting began during the wake, only intensifying as the departed lady’s coffin was lowered into the ground.

As I told my friend later, I hope my own “bon voyage” will be much more like a party or the traditional post-funeral parades they have in New Orleans.

Even without music, there should be plenty of laughter and singing. I’d be disappointed if someone doesn’t mention my weirdness, before they plant my ashes around the seed of a tree and wish me luck on my newest and grandest adventure.

Here’s how weird I am: since before I could walk or talk, my priority has been helping people smile. When I was nine months old, everyone who entered the room got a happy wave until I saw the smile and greeting I was looking for.

So please don’t ruin my last chance to do that when you say farewell, by crying!

This personality quirk has made me pretty popular. Until my 50s it was easy to find work, possibly because employers found my bright and outgoing manner pleasant.

And being naturally friendly made it much easier to discover the world without studying a local culture or language (I’m recording personal adventure stories for my grandson on a YouTube channel called “Stay Happy Samuel” as we speak).

Achieving a certain kind of success has always been quick and easy. The only measure of success I care about is improving somebody’s day.

My career and regular income haven’t done as well, though. People seem to enjoy the better mood I put them into, but rarely try to help me be more successful.

Everyone else in my family has achieved the stability and material success I can only dream of. Meanwhile I’m the weird adventurer, living by his wits and grateful for every smile.

Couldn’t have done anything differently if I’d tried.

The Joy of Losing

Life is often about losing, and feeling unhappy when it happens.

We lose people we care about, and our home or possessions.

(I never hear from many people I’ve loved the most; and all the pictures, clothes, letters, books that once seemed to define me have disappeared)

We lose arguments or discussions. Our precious status at work or in the family too. Our expectations and dreams–big sources of disappointment!

(I try to persuade people to work with me, yet conversations eventually turn into word games or ego trips that go nowhere, accomplish nothing, or alienate acquaintances I thought would help me make it big)

We waste valuable time and money on optimistic plans that disappear without a trace, and find ourselves in dead ends with no apparent way out.

(Social media. ‘Nuff said)

But guess what? That’s good news. The more we lose, the closer we’re getting to the kind of joy all those things were supposed to bring us.

Life is a journey. Like any journey, it’s most fun with minimal baggage–emotional, physical or mental.

We’ve spent most of our time acquiring or getting attached to “baggage.” So we’ll gain the most happiness by dealing with its loss in a positive way.

(Being cheerful and generous in defeat, resourceful when things go screwy, and philosophical when everyone around us is losing it)

All that baggage can make us feel important and permanent. But the kind of happiness that hangs around forever … comes from traveling as light as possible.

Take it from a lifelong road bum: the less baggage you have to wrestle with, the more you can enjoy the beauty and fulfillment in the world we’re lucky enough to be part of.

And in the last moments of life, the realization that we’re about to lose everything will be front and center.

The more graceful and buoyant we are about our loss and pain, the happier we’ll be when it matters the most.

So practice being a graceful loser today. Celebrate what you’re really accomplishing … by losing.


Follow your life–not a list!

concept of New Year resolution fading, being erased, forgotten or falling apart - white chalk handwriting on blackboard

At the gym here in Guadalajara this week, the crowds are thinning.

Heading into the second week of January I’ve noticed a predictable loss of enthusiasm among people who are beginning to find that working out isn’t as big a priority as they’d imagined.

We all know the feeling; and January 12 is actually “Stick to Your New Years Resolutions Day.”

Sticking to our resolutions is getting harder every day. So I stopped trying.

The universe and I have come instead to an agreement: it will keep providing memorable and marvelous experiences and projects ; I agree to feel overwhelmed and grateful by the stream of lessons and gifts.

A few people might actually stick to some carefully considered and hopeful list of what they think they need to do.

I travel light instead and just pack plenty of joy and gratitude; everything in my life takes care of itself without my questionable ability to make things happen.

The time you spent recently coming up with a resolution and thinking of ways you might achieve something would have been much better spent enjoying life instead.



How To Sell A Brothel in Pimlico

Anyone in sales or marketing knows in principle how effective total honesty can be  in ads and communications
He or she will also have deep misgivings about venturing that far out of their comfort zone

As a public service to help reassure people in this group we are pleased to share this real estate ad from about 50 years ago

It was presented by a very successful British real estate agent screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-12-10-38-pmwho broke all the rules by being completely honest and reaped all the benefits by getting what he wanted for his advertised property

One reason Avvene is working with children (aside from the fact that our species’ survival is in their hands) is that they are more likely to be completely honest than adults

In a sense this is our brand; if you are prepared to not only live with but also nurture honesty among our future leaders then we invite you to join our mission

[Photo courtesy of “Ask Drayton”–Drayton Bird’s web site where savvy marketing and sales professionals go for fresh air]

Relationships Are Everything

Most things in life we either achieve…or we don’t.

Making more money, getting a better job or building a project may succeed or fail–if the latter, it’s just back to the drawing board.

A relationship is different. Even if we separate for a while or make a huge mistake and hurt someone …

as long as we both care about that relationship, there’s always a chance for it to be renewed or repaired–whatever damage we might have done.

Try not to confuse building and nurturing a relationship with building and maintaining something mechanical, coordinated or businesslike:

you could give up on somebody too soon and lose what might have been something wonderful for everyone.

Celebrate even relationship problems: both of you could still be looking in the same direction so there’s still hope.

This is worth it…because all we really have in life is each other; and we’re all in this together.

Seeing Six Moves Ahead

“You are thinking six moves ahead!”

In “The Queen of Katwe” a young Ugandan girl discovers her passion for chess and a natural ability to become really good at it.

Her coach realizes she could even become a chess master the day she demonstrates her ability to visualize exactly what moves her opponent will make and what her response to each move should be.

The youth in this true story was very lucky to have found her true calling and natural talents at such an early age. Eventually her skill enabled her to fulfill a lifelong dream and buy a nice house for her mom.

How many thousands of children in similar impoverished living conditions around the world have some talent that could save their family or community and bring important new solutions to a world in dire need of great new leaders?

And how many of them are already able to “think six moves ahead” and solve critical problems–but have never been given a chance to apply their talents where they might do the most good?

The new Avvene educational project is dedicated to helping children everywhere identify their natural skills and abilities so they can quickly become the kind of teachers, experts and project developers we all need.

For more information and to see some of the future leaders we’re already working with, please visit our project’s landing page:

Isn’t it time for you to think six moves ahead–and visualize a world in which every young person has a real opportunity to make every skill and interest count?

We’re all in this together;

So let’s act like we know it and do something about it.




It’s Okay to Hate … Writing

Some great writers have hated to write.

In his book “The Great Shark Hunt” (Simon & Schuster), Hunter S. Thompson wrote:

“I’ve always considered writing to be the most hateful kind of work. Nothing is fun when you have to do it — over and over, again and again — or else you’ll be evicted, and that gets old.”

If that infamous “Fear and Loathing” curmudgeon hated to write because of how routine it can seem, you can too.

Just don’t hate it enough to never start doing it–or give up soon after. Then you’re depriving yourself of some of the very real personal and professional benefits it can bring you.

There are plenty of reasons you need a good editor–even if you hate to write and aren’t sure you even want to do it. Like anything else you do, it can be fun or tiresome; and if your editor doesn’t make it seem fun and challenging,  you should find a new editor.

Think about how much time you spend each day using a computer or smartphone, and what percentage of that time you are writing already. Think about how much you’ll enjoy unlearning the drivel from your school’s English class–thumbing your nose at a dreary teacher.

Think of it as a game of chess in which you know you’ll win because you can think more moves ahead than the reader. Or even think of it as a shopping spree in which you’re able to constantly look at your past experiences before putting them back into the shopping bag and embarking on another spree.

Go ahead: keep hating to write, while you finish your first book and gain amazing insights into your own character and your characters’ characters. Travel and play and reminisce and experience the textures of countless cherished moments.

It’s what happens when you’re writing–and there’s so much more to it!


Some people just know how to keep their cookie jar filled.

Namely, the folks with strong vision and connections.

Lacking these, all our potential is about as filling as flour blowin’ in the wind: it’s not doing anything or nourishing us because there’s nothing holding everything together.

A strong vision is like milk or shortening that binds all your potential together so it can accomplish something useful and creative.

Then strong connections and a reliable network are like the team of bakers who’ll process your mass of dough into the proper consistency and shape before putting the raw cookies into the oven.

So stop being carried here and there by every breeze. Develop a vision you can believe in and a network that will be there when you need it. Get baking today!

So when’s dessert?



Confidence – and How We Help Build it

In a recent Fast Company article, Leadership Consultant and author Angie Morgan noted the importance of dealing with dozens of everyday challenges that tend to shake our confidence. This matters! Feeling confident always increases our ability to achieve our goals.

“When you lack confidence you put a lid on your potential,” Morgan pointed out. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. And we don’t intend anyone we work with to have to deal with such a lack.

So what does this have to do with Avvene our new international project designed to help any child anywhere prepare for success and leadership? It’s simple: increasing everyone’s self-confidence has been a key program goal since day one.

The program is designed to give every participant–including adult mentors and helpers–a steady stream of increased confidence; and then help them nurture it in others.

Four confidence-building steps are mentioned in the Fast Company article; and all are built in to every Avvene interaction and activity. They include:

  1. Practice Positive Self-Talk:

Every adult currently involved in developing the program’s pilot project in Ladysmith, South Africa is actively building a steady diet of self-affirmation and comments that praise the children participants.

Associate Professor Sonia Kang is lead researcher of a study cited by Morgan. She is quoted:  “Any time you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations.”

Negative self-talk and low prsonal expectations will never have a place in Avvene.

  1. Bask in Your Successes

From the very first day, children will be invited to share and celebrate their personal strengths and skills by recounting what they’ve always done well and hope to improve on in the future.

The initial questionnaire used to gather information as the primary source for the “reader’s” personalized book focuses on successful behaviors and positive perspectives.

  1. Surround Yourself With Supportive People

Success never comes from simply repeating “happy talk” or inspirational cliches. Our supportive mentors or helpers will always be on the lookout for young “readers” to immediately begin achieving incremental or noteworthy success while growing new confidence that will last a lifetime.

  1.  Manage Confidence-Killing Thoughts

Everything our readers and their helpers do will carry them into unexplored psychological territory that’s outside their comfort zones and familiar environments. Their long-term success depends on a resourceful ability to embark on a personal growth adventure with good humor, mutual support and courage.

“Courage isn’t action in absence of fear,” says Morgan. “It’s action in spite of fear. ”

Our program’s unique culture reflects its founders’ lifelong eagerness to function and find ways to succeed even in unfamiliar circumstances. Each participant will discover a new world of supporters able to help him or her face and overcome their fear of the unknown and even– when necessary–faltering self-confidence.

  1. Use Body Language

In a program as completely decentralized and multi-cultural as ours in which key developers and coordinators have spent years living and working with people from countless countries and backgrounds the respectful productive use of body language (including possibly “power poses or at least good posture) in every interaction will be a key collaborative component.
So how about it? You should seriously consider becoming involved in Avvene’s programs and activities–it will be a real confidence booster!

Cutting Across Parking Lots

When walking around Dupont Circle with my supervisor–a former FBI agent–I would sometimes try to shorten the walking distance by cutting across a parking lot or patch of grass. But Lester would have none of that.

“Tsk tsk” he admonished me. “I didn’t know you were that kind of person.”

He clearly wasn’t. After decades in a huge bureaucracy even the thought of cutting corners was unacceptable to the point of being dangerous.

Part of the fun I got from learning the neighborhood was discovering where I might save a few steps–not out of laziness but from a desire to find a tiny way to deal with something that stood between me and my ultimate goal.

Even today I cross a room at night without turning on a light so I can test my memory and resourcefulness.

One of the most memorable sections in Alexander’s wonderful book A Pattern Language was his bit of advice for home builders to wait and put in the pathway linking the sidewalk and front door until after visitors had shown you how they preferred to get from one to the other.

This quirk may even be a personal characteristic of people who are most comfortable using and getting creative with internet apps. if I were a developer I might need to follow established rules and stick to the sidewalk I suppose; but not as a mere user.

Discovering how to get most directly to where I want to go is always my higher priority.

How about you? Do you walk around parking lots and driveways instead of through them or across them?

Think I’ll ask the next kid I interview too.